Plant of the month: beautyberry

Purple reigns with the aptly-named beautyberry

Callicarpa bodinieriSome plants spend all summer barely getting a second glance - but when autumn comes around they drop their leaves to revel in their full glory. Callicarpa (otherwise known as the beautyberry) is one that always elicits a ‘wow’ at this time of the year.
Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ is a medium-sized shrub grown for its clusters of deep violet-purple, small, glossy berries. The berries look like they have been placed there by a cake decorator gone astray. These berries are only small but are borne in abundance on this slender shrub with branching growth 2-3m (6½-10ft) high. The best bit is that the berries can remain on the plant until well into the winter because the purple colour is not as appealing to the birds as other berries, and so they won’t touch them until they have finished off other fruits.
This shrub is quieter the rest of the year but still has a few tricks up its sleeve. In spring, the leaves emerge with a purplish tinge followed by rosy-pink shades in autumn. In summer clusters of lilac flowers bloom among the leaves, hinting at the show to follow. The berries ripen towards the end of September, but it isn’t until leaf drop that they really stand out.

Growing beautyberry

Hailing from central and western China, this shrub grows best with some shelter from strong winds in full sun to light shade. For good berry formation the soil shouldn’t be allowed to get too dry - but plants are generally trouble free with regards to pests and diseases. It is best if you can grow more than one as they will produce the most fruit with an additional pollinator.
Here at Hyde Hall you can find callicarpas planted around the gazebo on Clover Hill where visitors can look down into the group. We have also planted a large group in our new Winter Garden which will display the berries growing en masse.
Callicarpas don’t require pruning but can be trimmed lightly in spring to keep them in shape. They bloom on new wood and can even be used as an informal hedge.

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